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Nation Branding, Gender, Kyrgyzstan, Cinema, Central Asia
The article explores Kyrgyzstan’s nation branding through the film Kurmanjan Datka: Queen of the Mountains (2014). While focusing on the nexus of gender and nation branding, I suggest that the cinematic narrative of the importance of women in national history has become an additional source for polishing the national image. To test this, I turn to the cinematographic plot and analyze the nation-branding activities, on the one hand, and the situation of women in independent Kyrgyzstan, on the other. First, the article explores how existing patriarchal tendencies limit aspirations of Kyrgyz authorities to project an image of Kyrgyzstan as democratic, modern, and progressive. This is especially evident when a film about a real-life woman hero that challenges the patriarchal attitudes becomes a tool of nation branding. Second, the article highlights that not only elites but also ordinary citizens can engage in nation-branding practices. The article is based on interviews with the film’s producer and viewers, the heroine’s descendants, feminist activists, experts on nation branding, and foreign tourists during fieldwork in Bishkek and Osh in Kyrgyzstan in 2017, 2018, and 2019, as well as on archival data and interviews with film’s audiences in the United States.
Article in English